NIHR | Manchester Biomedical Research Centre

Our Impact

The success of Manchester BRC is based on the impact we make the lives of our patients and our communities, providing lasting change for all.

Read the stories below to find out more about how we transformed scientific breakthroughs into diagnostic tests and life-saving treatments for patients.

Making breast screening more accessible: views from British-Pakistani women

In the UK, around 71 per cent of eligible women take up their breast screening invitation. South Asian women in the UK are less likely to attend screening than any other BAME groups. In particular, British-Pakistani women have poor uptake to breast screening invitations and are more likely to live in deprived areas.

Researchers from the Manchester BRC Cancer Prevention and Early Detection  looked at how breast screening could be made more accessible to British-Pakistani women, a less-well listened to population.

To explore the reasons behind this, health psychologists interviewed 19 British-Pakistani women from East Lancashire to explore their views on attending routine breast screening.

Five key recommendations were suggested based on these interviews:

  1. Reinforce the message that breast screening is a female only environment. Only a female member of staff will perform the mammogram.
  2. Awareness needs to be raised with regards NHS translation and interpretation services to enable women to get the most out of all NHS appointments, not just breast screening.
  3. The NHS should consider recording language and communication preferences to improve access.
  4. The breast screening service should work together with communities as a valuable source of support and information for women.
  5. The breast screening service should involve BAME women in the creation of screening materials to enable accurate translations to improve accessibility.

Positive changes have already been made since our research. Invitation letters now include the term ‘breast x-ray’ and state that they are performed by female staff only. In summer 2019, the Greater Manchester screening service employed two cancer screening improvement leads funded by the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership (GMHSCP). They work in deprived areas with communities to provide support and information about screening.


The below PHE blog explores the key issues encountered by British-Pakistani women and also makes further suggestions on how to mitigate barriers to screening:

Making breast screening more accessible: views from British-Pakistani women


As part of this piece of work, women were also asked for their views on a risk-stratified breast screening service, which could provide women with a personalised risk score of their likelihood of developing the disease. These women were positive towards such a service but provided insight on potential barriers they could face. This focused on three main themes:

  1. Attitudes towards risk awareness
  2. Anticipated barriers to accessibility
  3. Acceptability / strategy of communicating risk to women

You can find out more about personalised breast cancer screening in a blog from BRC Researcher Vicky Woof 


Links to the associated papers:
  • https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0969141319887405
  • https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1186/s12885-020-06959-2.pdf

Findings for these studies are informing a wider research study called BC-Predict, co-led by Professor Gareth Evans, Cancer Prevention and Early Detection Theme Lead for Manchester BRC and Professor of Health Psychology, David French. This is testing the use of an online health and lifestyle questionnaire which, when combined with breast density information from a mammogram and genetic testing, can produce a personalised risk score for women attending screening.

Radiotherapy and Me

Almost half of cancer patients undergo some form of radiotherapy during their treatment. The Christie, part of the NIHR Manchester Biomedical Research Centre (BRC), delivers radiotherapy to around 8500 patients each year. However, we found that patients and researchers felt that it’s not talked about as much as other treatments, including the possible side effects.

‘Radiotherapy & Me’ was a creative project designed to share real-life experiences of radiotherapy, inspire conversations about radiotherapy as a safe and effective treatment, and raise awareness of research within Manchester BRC’s Advanced Radiotherapy theme.

Led by Vocal, the six-month project was a collaboration between cancer patients, researchers and health professionals, supported by creative practitioners from Manchester’s Contact Theatre.

Oldham, a town in Greater Manchester, was chosen as the site for the project to prioritise an area where there is traditionally low participation in translational research. The Royal Oldham Hospital also hosts The Christie at Oldham, which delivers a range of radiotherapy treatments closer to home, rather than patients having to travel to the main Christie hospital in South Manchester.

Patients and members of the public were invited to a series of workshops at Oldham Library. Together with researchers and creative practitioners, they were encouraged to reflect and capture their experience of the treatment through sessions in creative writing, spoken word, poetry and visual arts. This culminated in a showcase event at the library, where these exhibits were shared with members of the public through visual displays and audio recordings.

Vocal also created a series of video interviews with people who had experienced radiotherapy about their unique experiences of the treatment. The films and audio stories from are available online and have been shared with both regional and national health provider charities, to encourage more people to talk about radiotherapy and to promote involvement in research.  So far we’ve reached over 700 people.

Posters promoting these resources will be displayed in outpatients clinics at The Christie, as well as hospitals in Manchester, Macclesfield, Oldham and Salford, to support current patients, and their families and friends, to feel supported as they go through this treatment and experience.

Vocal continues to promote this work to wider patient and public involvement and engagement (PPIE) and cancer research networks.

The University of Manchester has also included the videos in training programmes within the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health (FBMH). Wider afield, they have also been promoted across the Clinical and Translational Radiotherapy Research Working Group (ctRAD) network of over 160 UK radiotherapy researchers. We have seen continued engagements through participation in other PPIE panels and events.